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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019

Five wins out of six against Dundalk but Cork City remaining grounded

“It’s always nice to set a benchmark but we’re not taking anything for granted.”

Kevin O'Connor celebrates scoring their second goal from a free kick Kevin O'Connor celebrates after scoring in Cork City's 3-0 win over Dundalk on Friday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

KEVIN O’CONNOR ADMITS that Cork City will be boosted by starting their season with a win over Dundalk, but the Irish U21 international insists they’re certainly not getting carried away in spite of another victory over their fiercest rivals.

A second-half free-kick from O’Connor was sandwiched between goals from Sean Maguire and Karl Sheppard on Friday night at Turner’s Cross as the Leesiders retained the President’s Cup with a 3-0 victory over the Premier Division champions.

It was a fifth defeat in six games against Cork City for Dundalk, who have undergone plenty of personnel changes since the conclusion of a memorable 2016 season, which brought them a third consecutive league title and a place in the Europa League group stages.

Stephen Kenny has lost seven members of last year’s squad, including Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle and Ronan Finn. Conor Clifford, Thomas Stewart, Steve Kinsella and Michael Duffy — who was the only newcomer to start in Cork — are among those who have been brought in for the 2017 campaign, which begins for the Lilywhites at home to Shamrock Rovers on Friday.

With the exception of Waterford-bound Kenny Browne, Cork City have retained their key players from last year, as well as adding the likes of Ryan Delaney, Conor McCormack and Jimmy Keohane, who all started in the President’s Cup success.

“It’s always important to beat your main rivals, psychologically for the team and for the new lads coming in to show that we can beat them. Having it down here was a massive advantage for us but it’s still a game, you still have to go out and win it,” said left-back O’Connor, who contributed to his side keeping a fifth clean sheet in six games against Dundalk.

Gabriel Sava is unable to stop Kevin O'Connor's free kick going in Dundalk goalkeeper Gabriel Sava was unable to keep out Kevin O'Connor's free-kick. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“The new lads who came in were excellent and it shows just how good a team we are. But we’re not taking anything for granted. It’s good to get a trophy but it’s really another pre-season game.”

Cork City have been second-best to Dundalk in the Premier Division in each of the last three seasons. Despite ending a run of 10 games without a win against the Louth side in 2016, the key game between the sides was a 2-1 win for Dundalk at Oriel Park back in October.

In order to go a step further this season, O’Connor believes that Cork City must strive for perfection at home. Last year they dropped seven points at Turner’s Cross, losing to Sligo Rovers and drawing with Wexford Youths and Bohemians. Dundalk’s winning margin at the end of the title race was seven points.

“I think a bit of our home form let us down last year. We lost to Sligo at home and drew with Bohs in two successive weeks. We can’t afford to do that. Our home form is the one that we need to make sure is top notch. Normally it is. But if we keep winning and the fans get behind us I think we can beat anybody,” O’Connor said.

“We just have to kick on. We believe in ourselves, that’s the main thing. We have the quality in the team so we won’t be worrying about anybody else but ourselves this year.”

Aiming to win their first Premier Division title in 12 years, Cork City start their bid for success away to Finn Harps on Friday night. O’Connor said: “It’s always nice to set a benchmark but we’re not taking anything for granted. The big one is Finn Harps away.”

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Paul Dollery

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